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Civil Model Jury Charge 4.10 F. CONTINGENT CONTRACT


1.Condition Precedent


Very often it is difficult to determine whether a contingency is a true condition precedent or is a dependent performance obligation.In the former situation, it is said that there is no contract because the condition upon which the contract itself was formed is lacking.Duff v. Trenton Beverage Co.,4N.J.595, 604 (1950).In the later, a contract was formed, but there may be an excuse for non-performance which protects the defaulting party from liability for breach.Id.at 605.

Here,[choose one](a) the defendant contends that the parties negotiated only to the point of a tentative agreement and that a final agreement was contingent[1]on the following[contract term]; (or) (b) the defendant contends that the parties negotiated a contract which included the following contingency[contract term].[2]Defendant contends that this contingency had to exist or occur before the defendant had any duty to perform under the contract:

[state the asserted contingency]

The plaintiff has the burden of proving that the parties reached a final agreement (or that the condition existed, occurred or was excused).

Therefore, to establish his/her right to recover, the plaintiff must prove that:

a. the parties reached an agreement without the contingency;

b. if the agreement was tentative (or included the contingency), plaintiff must prove the contingency occurred;[3]or

c. if the contract was tentative (or included the contingency) and the contingency did not occur; plaintiff must prove the non-occurrence was excused. (The judge should relate the evidence to whatever excuse is being asserted).

2. Excuses for Failure of Condition Precedent

a.Waiver. Plaintiff has claimed that the right to insist on the condition[supply facts of condition asserted]has been waived by the defendant. [See Section 4.d.infra,for elements of waiver.]

b.Estoppel. Plaintiff has claimed that the defendants right to insist on the occurrence of the condition precedent should be excused because the defendant frustrated or interfered with the occurrence of the condition.[4] [See Section4.e.infra,for elements of estoppel].

c.Interference by Party Claiming Non-occurrence. Plaintiff has claimed that the defendants right to insist on the occurrence of the condition precedent should be excused because the defendant frustrated or interfered with the occurrence of the condition. If the defendant prevented or hindered plaintiffs performance of the condition then the plaintiffs recovery can not be prevented because the condition precedent did not occur. Thus, if plaintiff proves the defendant interfered with the plaintiffs ability to perform the condition precedent, then the plaintiff would be excused from performing the condition precedent.

d.Impossibility. Plaintiff has claimed that the defendants right to insist on the occurrence of the condition precedent should be excused because the occurrence of that condition is an impossibility. [See Section4.a.infra,for elements of impossibility.

3. Dependent Covenants as a Condition of Performance[5]

Plaintiff has claimed that defendants failure to perform its obligation under the contract[insert stated obligation]relieved the plaintiff from performing any of plaintiffs obligations under the contract and entitles plaintiff to damages. Plaintiff must prove that the obligation was vital to the existence of the contract.[6] In other words, the performance of the defendants obligation was so important to the contract that the parties contemplated that the plaintiffs corresponding performance was conditioned upon defendants completion of its performance obligation.[7]

4. Excuses for Non-Performance of a Dependent Covenant

a.Condition Excused by Impossibility To excuse the condition because of impossibility or impracticability, the partys inability to perform must be because the condition objectively cannot be accomplished.[8] If the reason the condition cannot be met is a subjective personal inability, then the condition may not be excused.[9] The plaintiff must prove the performance could not be done and not just that the plaintiff could not do it. If, however, plaintiff agreed to assume the risk that the performance could not be performed and proposed its performance anyway, plaintiff is not excused for non-performance.

b.Condition Excused by Breach of the Other Party. Plaintiff here claims that plaintiffs failure to perform[state performance obligation]was the result of defendants breach. A[performance or condition]can be excused if the other party breaches the contract and causes the nonoccurrence of that performance or condition.[10] If the plaintiff could not or would not have performed the condition, regardless of the defendants conduct, the condition is not excused.[11]

c.Condition Excused by Repudiation by the Other Party.Plaintiff has claimed that the defendant cannot insist upon part of their agreement which required plaintiff to[insert performance obligation]because defendant has repudiated the contract. If a contract is repudiated by one party, a condition of performance may be excused.

In other words, if plaintiff proves that defendant indicated a refusal to honor the contract before[plaintiffs performance]could be[completed or met]; the defendant cannot insist on the completion of[plaintiffs performance]as a condition for his/her performance. If the plaintiff proves that defendant repudiated the contract, plaintiff is excused from[insert performance obligation].[12]

d.Condition Excused by Waiver. Plaintiff has claimed that defendant has waived the right to insist on performance of the obligation[insert stated obligation]relieving the plaintiff of the obligation to perform. To excuse his or her non-performance, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant knowingly gave up his or her right to insist on performance of[insert the performance obligation].[13] In other words, the defendant must have known that he or she had the right to insist on the completion of[insert performance obligation], but nevertheless agreed his or her obligation to perform would not depend on the performance of plaintiffs obligation. If plaintiff proves this, plaintiff may be excused from performing his or her obligation.

e.Condition Excused by Estoppel. Plaintiff claims that defendant should be forbidden from insisting upon performance of[insert performance obligation]due to defendants conduct. Plaintiff must prove that plaintiffs position was changed to plaintiffs detriment by relying upon the defendants conduct. The plaintiff must prove:

(1) that the defendants conduct amounted to a misrepresentation or a concealment of material facts;

(2) that the defendant knew or should have known of the true facts;

(3) that the plaintiff did not know of the facts concealed or the misrepresentation at the time plaintiff acted upon the defendants conduct;

(4) that the conduct was done by the defendant with the intention that it be acted upon by the plaintiff;

(5)that the plaintiff reasonably and justifiably relied on defendants conduct to plaintiffs detriment or harm.[14]

f. Condition Excused by Failure to Give Adequate Assurances. Plaintiff has claimed that defendant cannot insist upon the part of their agreement which required plaintiff to[insert performance obligation], because defendant has failed to give adequate assurances on his/her/its own performance. If plaintiff had reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant would commit a breach by failing to perform[insert performance obligation], plaintiff could rightfully demand reasonable assurances of defendants performance. Plaintiff may also suspend his/her/its own performance until he/she/it receives reasonable assurances of performance from the defendant. If plaintiff proves that defendant failed to provide reasonable assurances of due performance within a reasonable time, plaintiff may treat the defendants failure to give reasonable assurances as a repudiation.[See Section 4.c., supra, for elements of repudiation.] If plaintiff did not have reasonable grounds to believe that defendant would fail to perform his/her/its obligations under the contract, then plaintiffs failure to perform is not justified. As a consequence, plaintiff may himself/herself/itself be liable to the defendant for damages for failure to perform obligations.[15][See Section 4.b., supra, for elements of material breach.]

[1]Examples of these types of contracts are real-estate contracts subject to attorney review or financing or contract content on corporate board approval.

[2]The court determines whether a contract term is a condition or a promise.See Giumarra v. Harrington Heights, Inc.,33N.J. Super.178, 190 (App. Div. 1954),affd p.c., 18N.J.548 (1955).

[3]The burden of establishing the occurrence of the condition rests upon the party asserting it.Fitzmaurice v. Van Vlaanderen Machine Company,110N.J. Super.159 (App. Div. 1970),affd, 57N.J.447 (1971);Karl Sales and Serv. Inc. v. Gimbel Bros Inc.,249N.J. Super.487, 493 (App. Div. 1991).

[4]For example, assume the owner of a house makes a contract with a real estate broker under which the duty to pay the broker a commission is conditioned on the passing of title.If the owner wrongfullypreventstitle from passing, the owner is in breach of the contract with the broker and the condition is excused.E. Allan Farnsworth,Farnsworth on Contracts,Sec. 8.6, 382 (1990).N.J. Tanner Associates v. Ciraldo,33N.J.51 (1960).

[5]As opposed to pure conditions precedent, this section deals with dependent covenants of performance.That is when one promise to perform is so material that the corresponding performance is excused if the dependent promise is not kept.

[6]Duff v. Trenton Beverage,4N.J.595, 605 (1950).

[7]Connell v. Parlaveccio,255N.J. Super.45, 49 (App. Div. 1992);Seitz v. Mark-O-Lite Sign Contractors, Inc., 210N.J. Super.646 (Law Div. 1986).

[8]For example, suppose that an owners duty to make progress payment is conditioned on the contractor furnishing architects certificates, and though the work is properly done, the architect dies before giving a certificate.E. Allan Farnsworth,Farnsworth on Contracts,Sec. 271 (1979) andAllstate Redevelopment Corp. v. Summit Assoc., Inc.,206N.J. Super318, 324-325 (App. Div. 1985).See also,Calamari and Perillo,Contracts,Sec. 194 (West 1970).

[9]Duff v. Trenton Beverage Co.,4N.J.605 (1950);Seitz v. Mark-O-Lite Sing Contractors, Inc.,210N.J. Super646 (Law Div. 1986) andConell v. Parlaveccio,255N.J. Super45 (App. Div. 1992).Restatement of Contracts,Sec. 301 (1932).

[10]E. Allan Farnsworth,Farnsworth on Contracts,Sec. 8.6, 379 (1990).Restatement (Second) of Contracts,Sec. 235, 245 (1981);Restatement of Contracts,Sec. 295.

[11]Creek Ranch Inc. v. New Jersey Turnpike Authority,75N.J.421, 432 (1978).Seealso,Allstate Redevelopment Corp. v. Summit Associates, Inc.,206N. J. Super.318, 324-325 (App. Div. 1985) (a condition precedent may be excused where performance is prevented or hindered by a breach of the obligors duty of good faith and fair dealing).

[12]SeeNeptune Research & Development v. Teknics Industry System,235N.J. Super.522 (App. Div. 1989).For example, an insurance company issues a policy insuring B against theft, and providing that no payment will be made unless written notice is given within 60 days after loss.A loss occurs, and B immediately notifies A by telephone.A repudiates by informing B without adequate reason that it will not pay the loss.Because of this, B does not give written notice to A.B has a claim against A for the amount of the loss, despite failing to comply with the condition.Restatement (Second) of Contracts,Sec. 255 (1981) &Restatement of Contract, Sec. 306 (1932).

[13]West Jersey Title and Guaranty Co. v. Industrial Trust Co.,27N.J.144, 152 (1958).North v. Jersey Knitting Mills,98N.J.L.157, 159 (E. & A. 1922);Petrillo v. Bachenberg,263N.J. Super.472, 480 (App. Div. 1993),affd139N.J.472 (1995);Bertrand v. Jones,58N.J. Super.273 (App. Div. 1959);Plassmeyer v. Brenta,24N.J. Super.322 (App. Div. 1953).

[14]Palatine I v. Planning Board of Montville,133N.J.546 (1993);Foley Machinery v. Amland Contractors,209N.J. Super. 70, 75 (App. Div. 1986);Malaker Corp. Stockholders Protective Comm. v. First Jersey Natl Bank,163N.J. Super.463, 479 (App. Div. 1978);New Jersey Bank v. Palladino,146N.J. Super.13 (App. Div. 1976),mod. on other grounds77N.J.33 (1978);Clark v. Judge,84N.J. Super.35, 53 (Ch. Div. 1964),aff o.b.,44N.J.550 (1965).

[15]Magnet Resources v. Summit MRI, 318N.J. Super.275, 288 (App. Div. 1999).

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Since 1985, KENNETH VERCAMMEN has worked as a personal injury attorney, working for injury victims and their families. By taking a hard-hitting, aggressive approach toward the insurance companies, KENNETH VERCAMMEN and our co-counsel have consistently obtained outstanding results for many injured clients over the years I am proud to have worked on cases in various capacities, small and large. While obviously prior results cannot guarantee the outcome of future cases, I can guarantee that you case will receive the same degree of dedication and hard work that went into each of these prior cases.

In direct contrast to the hard-hitting approach we take toward the insurance companies is the soft approach we take toward our clients. I am proud of my compassionate staff as I am of the outstanding financial results they have achieved. For many years, I have watched them treat our clients with patience, dignity and respect. I would have it no other way.

Many years ago, I attended a seminar sponsored by the American Bar Association on Law Practice Management. This was to help insure that each of our clients is always treated like a person -- not a file! We recognize that you are innocent victims and that you have placed your trust in us. Please understand that we understand what you are going through. Feel comforted that we are here to help you.

If you retain KENNETH VERCAMMEN to represent you, we will give you the same advice we give each of our clients -- concentrate on your life, you family and your health. We will take care of everything else. Leave all of the work and worry about your legal rights to us. Trust us. Believe in us. Have faith in us as your attorneys. Understand that we will always to do what we believe is best for you and your case. Helping you is our job. In fact, it is our only job -- guiding injury victims like you through one of the most difficult times of your lives, with care and concern -- while fighting aggressively to the limits of the law to obtain compensation and justice for each of you!

Print our Personal Injury Questionnaire on our Website, Fill it out and Fax back, so we can determine if we can help you obtain an injury settlement. We would welcome an opportunity to prove to you what we have proven to thousands of injured clients -- that you can feel comfortable and secure in the fact that KENNETH VERCAMMEN - Trial Attorney We Fight To Win.

When you have been injured in an accident or collision, you are worried about who is going to pay your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. The last thing you want is to be taken advantage of by an insurance company. If you dont protect your rights, you may not be able to make a claim.

Insurance companies have attorneys and adjusters whose goal is to pay you as little as they can. You need a New Jersey personal injury lawyer to fight for you. I am dedicated to helping your recover as much money as possible under the law.

You need an attorney who will work hard to protect your rights, maximize your insurance settlement and minimize the hassles of dealing with the insurance companies. You need an experienced and aggressive New Jersey trial lawyer with PROVEN RESULTS who will fight for you. Having an experienced personal injury lawyer can make the difference between getting what you deserve and getting nothing.

Without the threat of a lawyer who is willing to go to trial and seek a big jury verdict, why would an insurance company pay you what your claim is really worth? Lawsuits can be expensive, and many people do not have the money to pursue their claim. In every case, I advance all costs associated with pursuing your case and I do not ask you for a penny until we recover from the other side.

I am an experienced aggressive trial lawyer and a 3rd degree Black Belt. I am not afraid to take your case to trial if that is what it takes to maximize the amount of money your recover for your personal injury. I offer one-on-one service, and I will not hand your case off to an inexperienced lawyer or a paralegal.

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Personal injury accidents can turn your life upside down. Making a personal injury claim can be difficult and time consuming. Once I take your case, you can stop worrying about dealing with the insurance companies and focus on recovering from your injuries. I take care of all of the paperwork, phone calls, and negotiations, so you can get on with your life.

p.s. For those clients who are afraid or reluctant to go to Court, KENNETH VERCAMMEN also offers a special -- For Settlement Only -- program. This means that if we are unable to settle with the insurance company, we will not go any further -- unless you want us to. You have my personal assurance that there will be absolutely no pressure and no obligation.

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Kenneth A. Vercammen is the Managing Attorney at Kenneth Vercammen & Associates in Edison, NJ. He is a New Jersey trial attorney has devoted a substantial portion of his professional time to the preparation and trial of litigated matters. He has appeared in Courts throughout New Jersey each week on personal injury matters, Criminal /Municipal Court trials, and contested Probate hearings.

Mr. Vercammen has published over 125 legal articles in national and New Jersey publications on criminal, elder law, probate and litigation topics. He is a highly regarded lecturer on litigation issues for the American Bar Association, NJ ICLE, New Jersey State Bar Association and Middlesex County Bar Association. His articles have been published in noted publications included New Jersey Law Journal, ABA Law Practice Management Magazine, and New Jersey Lawyer. He is the Editor in Chief of the American Bar Association Tort and Insurance Committee Newsletter.

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